South Africa: Stormers Couldn’t Guarantee Harlequins-Bound Louw Game Time

Cape Town — Thursday’s news that highly-rated Springbok prop Wilco Louw will be leaving the Stormers at the end of the 2020 Super Rugby season confirmed another major loss for South African rugby.

Still just 25, Louw has been one of the most highly-rated front-rowers in the country for a couple of years now and he has amassed 13 Test caps since making his debut back in 2017.

It is a position where the country has had quality depth for some time now, though, and with the likes of Frans Malherbe, Trevor Nyakane and Vincent Koch edging ahead of Louw from a Springbok perspective.

Louw was not selected in the victorious 2019 Rugby World Cup-winning squad and he has now been released early from his contract with Western Province Rugby to join English club Harlequins.

A big part of the reason to allow Louw to leave, Stormers coach John Dobson says, was because he could not be given any guarantees in terms of game time or pecking order because the man above him in Malherbe is “so good”.

“It is tough to lose him because he’s a guy we’re very fond of,” Dobson said of Louw.

“He has a great track record and he’s still very young as a tighthead.

“This is an opportunity he couldn’t say no to. He didn’t make the World Cup squad and there’s a chance for him to get 9 or 10 years of professional rugby earning euros. We couldn’t stand in the way of him, given the numbers.

“With an incredible quality prop like Frans Malherbe, you can’t go to Wilco Louw and give him an assurance because Frans is so good. It was the right thing for us.”

“We can’t give him guarantees even around game time.

“Rugby is not a sport where we can tell people they must stay. He genuinely goes with our blessing and our affection.”

Dobson pointed to 27-year-old Neethling Fouche as next in line for the Stormers after Louw.

“Neethling is a different sort of tighthead, but we’re working on what I think he needs to work on,” said the coach.

“You can’t get too many more skilled South African tightheads than Neethling.”

Louw, meanwhile, will start for the Stormers in Saturday’s clash against the Lions at Ellis Park.

Kick-off is at 15:05.